This is too bad.

A War Is Brewing in the Steely Dan Universe

Earlier this fall, the rock and jazz communities took a massive hit when Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker unexpectedly died at the age of 67. But those hoping to catch the band’s other founder, Donald Fagen, on the road in the near future to honor his friend might have to brace themselves for the worst case scenario: No music, new or old, for a long time. Per Rolling Stone, Fagen is suing Becker’s estate in order to retain control of the band and keep the Steely Dan name. The crux of the lawsuit boils down to a buy/sell agreement the duo signed before the release of their first album in the 1970s, which stipulated “that if a member of Steely Dan quit or died, the band would purchase all of that member’s shares in the group.” However, four days after Becker’s death, Fagen alleges he received a letter from Becker’s estate that said the agreement is “of no force or effect,” and Becker’s widow is insisting that she’s entitled to 50 percent ownership of the band — as well as a director or officer title.

Among the many details in Fagen’s lawsuit, he claims Becker “reaffirmed his commitment to the buy/sell Agreement and its validity” in 2009, when Becker even shot down attempts to tweak it in any way — making the duo the “only remaining shareholders and signatories to the buy/sell Agreement” at the time of his death. Additionally, Fagen is also suing the band’s longtime business management firm for “engaging in other secretive behaviors.” (How mysterious.) A court date has yet to be scheduled, but we have a feeling that Ohhhh, noooo, 50 percent won’t do for Fagen.


I hope they win!!

Spinal Tap Members “Go to 11” with $400 Million Lawsuit over Unpaid Royalties

Last year, Harry Shearer claimed he was owed a great deal of Spinal Tap royalties and announced he was suing Vivendi and StudioCanal for some $125 million USD. As if that weren’t large enough, the rest of the Spinal Tap crew has signed on, ballooning the lawsuit to $400 million.

According to the Guardian, Shearer has been joined by bandmates Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, as well as This Is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner.

The group allege that Vivendi manipulated accounting data while ignoring other accounting and reporting processes in order to fudge the numbers.

The Spinal Tap creators were contractually obligated to a 40 percent stake in profits, but Vivendi reported that the film only made $98 in soundtrack sales and $81 in merchandise sales between 1989 and 2006.

“The deliberate obfuscation by Vivendi and its subsidiaries is an outrage,” Christopher Guest said in a statement. “It is vital that such behaviour is challenged in the strongest way possible.”

Reiner added, “Fair reward for artistic endeavour has long been raised by those on the wrong end of the equation. What makes this case so egregious is the prolonged and deliberate concealment of profit and the purposeful manipulation of revenue allocation between various Vivendi subsidiaries — to the detriment of the creative talent behind the band and film…. Such anti-competitive practices need to be exposed. I am hoping this lawsuit goes to 11.”

As for McKean, he said, “This Is Spinal Tap was the result of four very stubborn guys working very hard to create something new under the sun. The movie’s influence on the last three decades of film comedy is something we are very proud of. But the buck always stopped somewhere short of Rob, Harry, Chris and myself. It’s time for a reckoning. It’s only right.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Shearer has also addressed this issue via a website called Fairness Rocks. Stay tuned for more details on the case as they unfold.


Best of luck, Q!!

Quincy Jones’ Royalties Dispute With Michael Jackson Estate Inches Toward Trial

One music icon and the estate of another are set to go to trial Feb. 21.

Quincy Jones’ breach of contract claims involving posthumous Michael Jackson releases will proceed to trial next month, after a judge on Wednesday denied a motion for summary judgment.

The fight began in 2013 when Jones sued Sony Entertainment and MJJ Productions, a song company controlled by the King of Pop’s estate, claiming master recordings he produced were wrongfully edited and remixed to deprive him of backend profit participation. The works at issue including the This Is It film and soundtrack album and the 25th anniversary edition of Bad.

Zia Modabber, attorney for MJJ, argued that Jones is trying to pass off breach of contract damages claims as separate causes of action.

In a Wednesday morning hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern said the case isn’t as clear cut as Modabber would like. He says issues concerning the contracts between Jones and MJJ require the examination of extrinsic evidence before they can be resolved. Stern has questions specifically in regard to whether the parties’ deal precludes Jones from being paid more favorably than Jackson himself, whether revenue from digital downloads should be treated as those of licenses or sales, and whether Jones is entitled to royalties from broadcast public performances and SoundExchange revenue.

The judge said he’s been hearing the same arguments from the beginning of the case and still believes the issues are ripe for trial. “I hate to sound trite, but it really is déjà vu all over again,” he said Stern. (Stern denied a previous summary judgment motion last February.)

Jones is represented by Robert Allen and J. Michael Hennigan of McKool Smith. MJJ is also represented by Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir of Kinsella Weitzman and Tami Sims and Leah Solomon of Katten Muchin Rosenman. Sony is represented by Mitchell Kamin and Jonathan Sperling of Covington & Burling.


Of course they did!!

Blurred Lines case: Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams plagiarized Marvin Gaye song, jury finds

A jury awarded Marvin Gaye’s children nearly $7.4 million Tuesday after determining singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied their father’s music to create Blurred Lines, the biggest hit song of 2013.

Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona Gaye wept as the verdict was being read and was hugged by her attorney, Richard Busch.

“Right now, I feel free,” Nona Gaye said after the verdict. “Free from … Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”

The verdict could tarnish the legacy of Williams, a reliable hit-maker who has won Grammy Awards and appears on NBC’s music competition show The Voice.

An attorney for Thicke and Williams has said a decision in favour of Gaye’s heirs could have a chilling effect on musicians who try to emulate an era or another artist’s sound.

The Gayes’ lawyer branded Williams and Thicke liars who went beyond trying to emulate the sound of Gaye’s late-1970s music and copied the R&B legend’s hit Got to Give It Up outright.

“They fought this fight despite every odd being against them,” Busch said of the Gaye family outside court. Thicke told jurors he didn’t write Blurred Lines, which Williams testified he crafted in about an hour in mid-2012.

Williams told jurors that Gaye’s music was part of the soundtrack of his youth. But the seven-time Grammy winner said he didn’t use any of it to create Blurred Lines.

Gaye’s children — Nona, Frankie and Marvin Gaye III — sued the singers in 2013 and were present when the verdict was read.

The verdict may face years of appeals.

Blurred Lines has sold more than 7.3 million copies in the U.S. alone, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures. It earned a Grammy Awards nomination and netted Williams and Thicke millions of dollars.

The case was a struggle between two of music’s biggest names: Williams has sold more than 100 million records worldwide during his career as a singer-producer, and Gaye performed hits such as Sexual Healing and How Sweet It Is (To be Loved by You) remain popular.

During closing arguments, Busch accused Thicke and Williams of lying about how the song was created. He told jurors they could award Gaye’s children millions of dollars if they determined the copyright to Got to Give It Up was infringed.

Howard King, lead attorney for Williams and Thicke, told the panel that a verdict in favour of the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians who were trying to recreate a genre or homage to another artist’s sound.

King denied there were any substantial similarities between Blurred Lines and the sheet music Gaye submitted to obtain copyright protection.

Williams, 41, also signed a document stating he didn’t use any other artists’ work in the music and would be responsible if a successful copyright claim was raised.

Thicke testified he wasn’t present when the song was written, despite receiving credit.

The trial focused on detailed analyses of chords and notes in both Blurred Lines and Got to Give It Up

Jurors repeatedly heard the upbeat song Blurred Lines and saw snippets of its music video, but Gaye’s music was represented during the trial in a less polished form. Jurors did not hear Got to Give It Up as Gaye recorded it, but rather a version created based solely on sheet music submitted to gain copyright protection.

That version lacked many of the elements — including Gaye’s voice — that helped make the song a hit in 1977. Busch derisively called the version used in court a “Frankenstein-like monster” that didn’t accurately represent Gaye’s work.

An expert for the Gaye family said there were eight distinct elements from Got to Give It Up that were used in Blurred Lines, but an expert for Williams and Thicke denied those similarities existed.


Hope he wins!!

Quincy Jones sues Michael Jackson’s estate

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Quincy Jones sued Michael Jackson’s estate on Friday claiming he is owed millions in royalties and production fees on some of the superstar’s greatest hits.

Jones’ lawsuit seeks at least $10 million from the singer’s estate and Sony Music Entertainment, claiming the entities improperly re-edited songs to deprive him of royalties and production fees. The music has been used in the film “This Is It” and a pair of Cirque du Soleil shows based on the King of Pop’s songs, the lawsuit states.

Jones also claims that he should have received a producer’s credit on the music in “This Is It.” His lawsuit seeks an accounting of the estate’s profits from the works so that Jones can determine how much he is owed.

The producer worked with Jackson on three of his most popular solo albums, “Off the Wall,” ”Thriller” and “Bad.”

Jackson’s estate wrote in a statement that it was saddened by Jones’ lawsuit. “To the best of its knowledge, Mr. Jones has been appropriately compensated over approximately 35 years for his work with Michael,” the statement said.

An after-hours message left at Sony Music’s New York offices was not immediately returned.

Jackson’s hits “Billie Jean,” ”Thriller” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” are among the songs Jones claims were re-edited to deprive him of royalties and his producer’s fee.

Jones’ lawsuit states the producer’s contracts called for him to have the first opportunity to re-edit or alter the songs, in part to protect his reputation.


They obviously ripped it off, what are they thinking?!

Robin Thicke sues Marvin Gaye heirs, Funkadelic over ‘Blurred Lines’ controversy

Robin Thicke wants the world to know that “Blurred Lines” is his song. Because of this, Thicke — along with co-composers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. — have preemptively sued the heirs of Marvin Gaye and Bridgeport Music, the owner of some compositions by the musical group, Funkadelic.

The basis for this suit (released by The Hollywood Reporter): Both the Gaye heirs and Bridgeport have alleged that “Blurred Lines” incorporates enough from earlier compositions to constitute copyright infringement. Thus, Thicke and the others want the court to declare these allegations false before anyone can sue anyone else for damages.

Just call it a preemptive legal strike.

Filed on Thursday (Aug. 15) by lawyers representing the “Blurred Lines” composers, the suit claims that the big song of summer 2013 does not, in fact, infringe on any copyrights. In the case of the Funkadelic song, “Sexy Ways,” the lawsuit denies any true similarities whatsoever.

It’s a little more confusing with the Marvin Gaye song, “Gotta Give It Up.” Based on the wording used, it’s possible — likely even — that Thicke and the others were inspired by this particular song. But that still doesn’t count as copyright infringement: “The intent in producing ‘Blurred Lines’ was to evoke an era,” the lawsuit reads. This implies that “Blurred Lines” is more of an homage to the earlier song than any sort of copy.

Interestingly, the lawsuit leaves open the possibility of other composers and copyright holders coming forward to allege infringement on the part of “Blurred Lines.” Are Thicke’s lawyers expecting more challenges, or is this just a standard legal practice? It is hard to say. For now, only these two allegations have surfaced.

Despite filing a lawsuit that implies otherwise, Robin Thicke doesn’t seem too eager to destroy his accusers. The beginning of the suit reads as follows: “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists.”

Also, the suit does not ask for any specific damages to be rewarded, other than legal fees. The entire purpose of the action seems to be to preclude further action from others.

In a side note, George Clinton — the former leader of Funkadelic — has tweeted his support for Robin Thicke and not for a song he co-wrote: “No sample of #Funkadelic’s ‘Sexy Ways’ in @robinthicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ – yet Armen Boladian thinks so? We support @robinthicke @Pharrell!”


No real surprise here.

NY court: Marvel can keep Spider-Man, X-Men comics

NEW YORK (AP) — Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk can continue to reside in Marvel’s offices after a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected an ownership claim by the children of an artist who helped create them.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan agreed with a lower court judge who denied claims by the family of Jack Kirby, the legendary artist who died in 1994 and whose work spanned more than half a century.

Kirby’s heirs in California and New York wanted to terminate Marvel’s copyrights from 2014 through 2019 to comics published from 1958 to 1963.

Marvel Worldwide Inc. sued in January 2010 to prevent it, leading U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in July 2011 to conclude the work was done “for hire,” a legal term that rendered the heirs’ claims invalid.

She said the 1909 copyright law that applies to the case presumed that Marvel was considered the author and owner of Kirby’s creations because the characters were made at Marvel’s expense.

The appeals court agreed, saying that when “Kirby sat down to draw, then, it was not in the hope that Marvel or some other publisher might one day be interested enough in them to buy, but with the expectation, established through their ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship, that Marvel would pay him.”

It added: “Kirby’s completed pencil drawings, moreover, were generally not free-standing creative works, marketable to any publisher as a finished or nearly finished product. They build on pre-existing titles and themes that Marvel had expended resources to establish — and in which Marvel held rights — and they required both creative contributions and production work that Marvel supplied. That the works are now valuable is therefore in substantial part a function of Marvel’s expenditures over and above the flat rate it paid Kirby for his drawings.”

The appeals court traced the early history of Marvel, noting that it fell on hard times due to bad business decisions in the 1940s and 1950s but did well again after the release of the first issues of “The Fantastic Four” in 1961.

Other comics in the case included “The Mighty Thor,” ”The X-Men,” ”The Avengers,” ”Ant-Man,” ”Nick Fury” and “The Rawhide Kid.”

In a statement, Marvel said: “We are gratified by the appellate court’s definitive ruling that there is no legitimate basis to terminate our ownership of the copyrights at issue.”

Lawyers for the Kirby family did not immediately return messages seeking comment.


I am sure that we all wish him well!!

‘Die Hard’ director heading to jail

Die Hard director John McTiernan looks set to be heading to jail after losing a last-ditch legal challenge to stay out of prison.

In 2006, the moviemaker pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation officers who were investigating Anthony Pellicano, the shamed Hollywood private detective who, in 2008, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for illegal wiretapping.

McTiernan admitted hiring Pellicano to illegally record movie producer Charles Roven’s phone conversations, and lying to authorities about it, and a judge sentenced him to a year behind bars in October, 2010.

He immediately launched an appeal to fight the judgment, which was rejected last August, but he continued his challenge by taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, McTiernan’s request for a review of his plea and sentencing was denied on Monday, clearing the way for the director to finally begin serving his prison term.


Shocking news!!

‘Storage Wars’ lawsuit: David Hester claims A&E show is rigged

A new “Storage Wars” lawsuit has been revealed that claims that the A&E series is actually rigged. David Hester, a former star of the show, has filed a suit alleging that he was fired from the series after he complained to producers about the fact that items are planted inside the storage units that are bid on.

In instances explained via TMZ, Hester writes in his lawsuit that producers hid a BMW mini under “a pile of trash” and planted old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis. He also alleges that the series gave unattractive cast members money to have plastic surgery that will “create more sex appeal.”

This isn’t the first time Hester has been involved in a lawsuit in recent years. In 2011, he filed a suit after Trey Songz sent him a cease and desist letter claiming Hester needed to stop using the phrase “YUUUP!” Songz claimed “yuuup” had been his “signature sound” since 2009, though Hester argued in his lawsuit that the two sounds are different. Hester trademarked “YUUUP!” in September 2011.


All is not happy with this Modern Family!!

Cast of ‘Modern Family’ sues over contract

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Five stars of “Modern Family” have banded together and are suing to void their contracts to work on the hit comedy, arguing that the contracts are illegal under California law.

The suit filed Tuesday by series stars Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell and argues that their contracts with 20th Century Fox Television violate a California law prohibiting personal service contracts from extending for more than seven years.

The lawsuit asks a judge to rule the contracts are illegal and should be voided because they prohibit the actors from other work. The lawsuit states the contracts bind the actors to work on the series from February 2009 and June 30, 2016.

“‘Modern Family’ has been a breakout critical and financial success,” the lawsuit states. “That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts.”

A spokeswoman for 20th Century Fox said the studio had no immediate comment on the case.

The lawsuit also states contracts cap the raises the actors receive for each additional season of the show — Vergara’s pay raise per season is capped at five percent, while the rest of her co-stars named in the suit are allowed to receive a maximum pay increase of four percent per year. Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell are also required to perform numerous unpaid publicity obligations.

The show recently concluded its third season.

“Modern Family” is a popular comedy that airs on ABC and won Emmy Awards for outstanding Comedy Series the past two years. Several of the stars, including Burrell, Bowen and Stonestreet have won individual Emmys for their work on the show.

The show was recently nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, the most of any sitcom.